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TOUCHSTONE PICTURES

MOVIE INFO
Director:
Andy Tennant
Cast:
Reese Witherspoon, Josh Lucas, Patrick Dempsey, Fred Ward, Mary Kay Place, Jean Smart, Candice Bergen, Ethan Embry, Melanie Lynskey
Writing Credits:
C. Jay Cox

Tagline:
Sometimes What You're Looking For Is Right Where You Left It.
Box Office:
Opening weekend $35.648 million on 3293 screens.
Domestic gross $126.086 million.
MPAA:
Rated PG-13 for some language/sexual references.

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Digital Stereo
Subtitles:
None
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 109 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 2/4/2003

Bonus:
• "Off The Cutting Room Floor": 8 Deleted Scenes Introduced by Director Andy Tennant
• Alternate Ending with Introduction by Andy Tennant
• Audio Commentary with Andy Tennant
• SHeDaisy's Music Video "Mine All Mine"


PURCHASE
DVD
Music soundtrack

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EQUIPMENT
TV - Mitsubishi CS-32310 32"; Subwoofer - JBL PB12; DVD Player - Toshiba SD-4700; Receiver - Sony STR-DE845; Center - Polk Audio CS175i; Front Channels - Polk Audio; Rear Channels - Polk Audio.

RELATED REVIEWS


Sweet Home Alabama (2002)

Reviewed by David Williams (February 3, 2003)

I’m sure you can all relate to the frustration of seeing a trailer that gives away all of the plot points and good jokes from a film. Well, that’s exactly what happened in the trailer for Sweet Home Alabama, but this time, it could be considered a good thing - it could actually save you from actually having to watch the film itself. In fact, you could fall in to a coma during the middle third of the film – wake up towards the end – and still have a pretty good idea of what happened while you were out. However, if you like your films mind-numbingly predictable - with plot points telegraphed and force-fed to you in small amounts - with perky stars and co-stars, then Sweet Home Alabama is right up your alley – complete with formulaic and tired southern stereotypes and all.

Sweet Home Alabama introduces us to steel magnolia Melanie Carmichael (Reese Witherspoon), an up-and-coming fashion designer living in New York City who left her white trash past in Alabama behind years ago and successfully reinvented herself in the Big Apple. She’s recently become engaged to Andrew Hennings (Patrick Dempsey), a politically ambitious and urbane JFK body-double who also happens to be the son of New York City’s mayor (Candice Bergen). The proposal comes straight out of every little girl’s dreams, as Andrew pops the question at a private party for two – at Tiffany’s of all places – and he tells Melanie to pick anything from the jewelry counter she wants and it’s hers. Melanie obviously accepts.

However, there’s just one small detail that needs to be taken care of before she and Andrew can wed – seems that Melanie’s still married to her high-school sweetheart back in Alabama, Jake (Josh Lucas). Melanie, hoping that word doesn’t get out on her less-than-perfect southern pedigree, as well as the fact that she’s still married, hops on the first plane bound for Pigeon Creek, Alabama with the sole intention on getting Jake to quickly sign the proper papers to make their separation legal. By doing so, she can become a member of New York’s social elite as quickly as possible and keep her white trash past a mystery to everyone in New York.

As expected (and telegraphed in the trailer), good ol’ boy Jake refuses to sign the papers for a couple of reasons - #1, because he feels like Melanie is acting too much like a “hoity toity Yankee bitch” and #2, because he still has strong, albeit unspoken, feelings for her. He masks and drags out his romantic inclinations for her and although later on he signs the divorce papers, Jake’s implicit feelings gradually convince Melanie that she belongs back “home” in Pigeon Creek with him. Jake also becomes a catalyst for old memories – some better forgotten – and it causes Melanie to re-acquaint herself with those that she left behind, including her father Earl (Fred Ward), a La-Z-Boy lounging Civil War re-enactor; her mother Pearl (Mary Kay Place); a bar-hopping baby maker and old friend from high school, Lurlynn (Melanie Lynsky); Jake’s bar owning and party loving mother, Stella (Jean Smart); and a gay friend who remains silently in the closet (Ethan Embry) that she callously outs in a drunken outburst.

As time passes and Melanie remains in Pigeon Creek, she becomes torn between the life she had in Alabama and the life she thinks she wants in New York. Early on, everyone’s necks seem to be redder than normal and over time, Melanie finds herself fitting comfortably in her old southern shoes. And although she got what she came for, she realizes that getting what you want isn’t always as wonderful as it originally seems – and that living a lie is pretty tough when your past comes calling. However, this is Hollywood we’re talking about, so you can imagine all’s well that ends well.

Reese Witherspoon leads a fairly solid cast in Sweet Home Alabama and shows that she has quite an impressive acting range. From Election to Legally Blonde and now, Sweet Home Alabama, she proves that she can do everything from serious to funny to feisty and do each of them quite well. Witherspoon also adds an air of believability to her role, as the actress hails from the state of Tennessee. Josh Lucas and Ethan Embry both portray their roles as down home as they come and offer up a kind of goofy sincerity that makes their characters a bit more engaging than others. Fred Ward and Mary Kay Place are appropriately humorous in their roles as Melanie’s parents, while Candice Bergen simply phones in her role and plays the same tired and bitchy character she’s played for the last decade.

Sweet Home Alabama wants nothing more than to be enjoyed by as wide a range of audience as possible and it ends up being precisely that – another in a long line of cookie-cutter romantic comedies/modern-day fairy tales that Hollywood turns out in droves each and every year. Although the film is ripe with ridiculous southern stereotypes, it ultimately reveals a slight fondness for small-town, rural living and proves that while you might be able to take a girl out of the South, you can’t take the South out of the girl.


The DVD Grades: Picture B / Audio B- / Bonus C+

Sweet Home Alabama is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 from Buena Vista. Being such a recent film, the transfer looks pretty much like you’d expect, with only the occasional distraction here and there to tarnish the otherwise fine looking print.

The film contains a very tight and detailed picture throughout, with a bright and cheery color palette that comes through marvelously on DVD. The film does maintain an overall level of softness that seems to have been intentional more so than a factor of the film’s transfer. It’s nothing that’s overtly distracting and there’s nothing here that you haven’t seen with this type of soft-filtering before. The vibrantly colored hues in the film displayed proper balance and tone, with natural-looking fleshtones and black levels that were very deep and solid. Shadow detail and delineation were nice, with acceptable detail throughout.

Flaws with the print were minimal and outside of a couple of flakes and flecks, I noted a small amount of grain in a few scenes that caused the image to go faintly soft on occasion and caused some of the black levels to become slightly muddy. I also noted some very slight haloing in a couple of areas as well. However, image detail isn’t severely affected by these anomalies and Buena Vista’s transfer maintained a very film-like presence throughout.

Ultimately, Sweet Home Alabama was a very pleasing transfer that fans of the film will hardly find fault with. While some improvements could have been made, there’s nothing contained within the film that raised any major concerns and the transfer was easily on par with most.

Buena Vista presents Sweet Home Alabama in a couple of different mixes – an English and French Dolby Digital 5.1 transfer. I doubt there are many of you out there expecting an audio free-for-all from something in the “romantic comedy” genre and as anticipated, you won’t get one from Sweet Home Alabama either. That’s not to say that Buena Vista’s transfer is a bad one, because it isn’t. It’s definitely up to par with most transfers in its genre and Sweet Home Alabama contained some really nice stereo separation in the forward channels and even the occasional instance of ambient surround.

Dynamics and fidelity for the film are satisfactory, although the majority of the film remains firmly anchored in the front channels. Rear surrounds rarely come in to play at all during the film, as their main job seems to be propping up George Fenton’s suitable score/soundtrack for the film. There were some instances in Sweet Home Alabama where environmental elements offered up some slight immersion, but it was nothing you’ve haven’t heard before and is only worth mentioning because of the overall lack of anything else noteworthy. Impressive effects are absent from the film, as was any imposing, punch-packing low-end. Dialogue was always front, center, and easily understood and there were never any issues related to intelligibility whatsoever.

As a side note, the Closed Captions for Sweet Home Alabama popped up without warning in two different areas while viewing the film (51:42 and 1:18:34 respectively). They only appeared on the screen for one second or so each time and then promptly went away. It’s possible that it was my DVD player (see side bar on the left for my setup), but I’ve never had another disc in my collection of 525+ do that before. While odd, it wasn’t distracting – but definitely worth mentioning.

Buena Vista has also included Closed Captions and subtitles in English.

Buena Vista hasn’t loaded up the Sweet Home Alabama DVD with a glut of supplements, but there’s enough here that those who want to learn a little bit more about the film will be given ample opportunity via a couple of nice extras on the disc.

The first extra is an Audio Commentary With Director Andy Tennant that runs the entire length of the film. Tennant’s commentary is pretty generic and blasé, as he walks us through all of the various aspects of making the film. He covers all the directorial commentary staples like the evolutionary cycles that the script took (one scenario contained a whole character that was expunged), location scouting and shooting, what it was like working with the actors featured in the film, engaging anecdotes and stories from the set, and so on. Tennant spends a good bit of time reinforcing the painfully obvious, as he goes into a bit too much plot and character development at times, but it’s all easily forgiven as the subject matter at hand doesn’t lend itself to too many directorial tricks of the trade. Tennant offers up an engaging little piece for fans of the film, but DVD aficionados will experience an enormous sense of déjà vu, as the commentary doesn’t offer up much that you haven’t heard before and on much more interesting films. Don’t get me wrong - it’s not a bad commentary, but it just doesn’t do much to set itself apart either.

Off The Cutting Room Floor introduces us to eight deleted scenes from the film which each receiving a quick introduction from director Andy Tennant. In addition to hosting each of the clips, he tells us why they were removed from the final cut and also sets the proper tenor for the clip before having us view it. The majority of the deleted scenes introduce us to a deleted character named Erin that was completely removed from the film because of some confusion and problems related to the character during some early audience screenings. None of the scenes would have dramatically altered the film in any way and ultimately, the scenes included here were good, but far from great. Scenes included are “Erin Spills Coffee” (0:49), “Melanie Talks to Erin” (2:01), “Press Hounds Melanie/Erin” (1:18), “Pan Reads Melanie Her Reviews” (2:09), “Andrew Calls Melanie & Erin Flirts” (2:29), “Stella’s Roadhouse” (3:51), “Phone Call Montage” (3:26), and “Kate Meets Erin” (2:01). All are presented in widescreen and Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround.

The film’s Alternate Ending (3:42) can be found as a selection all by itself. Again, director Andy Tennant introduces the clip for us, allows us to see it, and then comes back to tell us why the scene was cut. Again, the test audience had some issues with the scene and the principals behind the camera decided it should go as well. The scene definitely doesn’t work and was rightfully removed.

Next up is the “Mine All Mine” Music Video from the country music group, SHeDAISY. (Their spelling, not mine. I assume it’s supposed to look cool.) This is followed by a link to Register Your DVD - a DVD-ROM enabled link that will let Buena Vista know that we own the disc and will in turn, make us eligible for disc replacement, tech support, and notification of special offers.

Again, it’s not a spectacularly loaded SE by any stretch, but the extras that are included are informative and breezy enough that fans of the film should be placated.

Sweet Home Alabama has a formulaic familiarity that will attract a built-in audience that will purchase this DVD regardless of what any review states and that’s totally understandable. It doesn’t hurt that Reese Witherspoon is riding a massive wave of popularity with the predominantly female, pre-pubescent, MTV crowd. Even still, the “no-surprises-sweet-and-syrupy” love story rarely fails to bring at least one smile to most folks faces at some point in the film and in that regard, I guess Sweet Home Alabama succeeds.

Buena Vista’s DVD isn’t a demo-quality disc in any respect, but the A/V specs are solid enough that fans of the film will have no complaints. The disc comes recommended for fans of the film, fans of its principals, or fans of the romantic comedy genre in general. With online or mass retailer discounting, Sweet Home Alabama is priced to move and after looking at Amazon’s Hot 100 recently, it looks like that’s exactly what it’s doing.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.985 Stars Number of Votes: 67
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